The F*ckin Black Sheep: Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Directed by Rob Hedden

“JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is not a great film, but definitely entertainingly dumb."

FRIDAY THE 13th PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is not exactly a high point for the Jason Voorhees saga. In fact, it didn’t exactly enhance the slasher genre’s credibility. Then again, is there a true high point for FRIDAY THE 13th? Eh…

Let’s face it though. It gets a little dull to keep having every FRIDAY THE 13th taking place at Crystal Lake with yet another round of campers where they nearly all get dead in really, really painful ways. So the idea of switching the action elsewhere was interesting, and first time feature writer/director Rob Hedden did decent considering the circumstances. With that very subtle subtitle JASON TAKES MANHATTAN, the story was originally to take place completely in…you guessed it…Manhattan.

Due to the budget (around $5 million), about 80% of the action took place on a ship, a set that no doubt already existed. About a full hour later we finally make it to the big city (with Vancouver standing in for NYC…which is obvious in some parts like when a cop as a very suspicious northern accent). In fact, it should have been named JASON TAKES GENERIC ALLEYWAYS. At least we get one money shot of Jason stalking teens in Times Square. The movie is worth it for that scene alone.

The plot of JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is as ridiculous as expected with a graduating group of seniors from Lakeview High taking a luxury voyage to New York City. We’re given the standard collection of teenagers: from the jock, to the ambitious bitch, to the loser audio/video guy, to the rock girl, to our main character Rennie, a wanna be writer with a haunted past. And guess who shows up to ruin a good time? (I think we all know.) One thing that makes PART VIII differ from the rest comes from its very now, very f*cking hip nature. Released in 1989, it reeks of its era of the height of the hair bands, ready to feel outdated the moment Nirvana released “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (and note that right before the 19 minute mark we even get a “music video” complete with hot girl with bad hair, leather jacket, and a flying v guitar).

Kane Hodder is the perfect Jason, even if we see too much of him. Which sounds silly but despite a non-existent plot, my biggest complaint of Hedden comes from him showing Jason in far too many scenes. Don’t get me wrong, Jason saves this movie, but he’s  always there, in plain view of the camera instead of him stalking and lurking in the shadows. I know fans always want more of their favorite unstoppable monster, but not this much. It takes away any impact when he does appear. But that’s not Hodder’s fault. He’s great as usual and the perfect size, not WWE wrestler big which drives me nuts when directors decide to go massive (like when Rob Zombie made Michael Myers into a pro wrestler).

I can’t claim JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is a misunderstood masterpiece as it has a plethora of silly shit like why the hell is Jason wet the entire movie? It also seems stupid that in the eighth edition of a franchise, there’s no need to recap the tale of Jason Voorhees and what happened at Crystal Lake. It’s just as ridiculous as showing us how Jason can come back to life despite the fact he’s dead (again). Here, a couple teens are on a boat and when they drop anchor, it catches a power line and reanimates him back to life. No one gives a shit how he comes back. He always does, so just have him be.

However, despite all the ridiculousness I give Hedden credit for trying to work with it, adding a psychological angle with Rennie as she continually sees a young drowned Jason because her rich, asshole uncle once pushed her into Crystal Lake so she could learn how to swim. And hell, no one really cares about the story as usual and the characters don’t matter. They’re there to be slaughtered in unusually bizarre ways and the movie delivers the goods there  (the gold, silver, and bronze go to the decapitated boxer, death needle through chest, and death by flying v guitar).

FRIDAY THE 13th PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN is not a great film, but definitely entertainingly dumb. It's not taking place in space, and we do get more Jason than probably any of the other films. Which on second thought is probably a good thing. 






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